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3D printing of personal electronics may be in our future

Researchers, led by Doctor Simon Leigh at the University of Warwick, have announced the creation of a simple and inexpensive conductive plastic composite that can be used in 3D printers. The researchers believe that the material, called carbomorph, could give hobbyists the ability to 3D print low-cost consumer electronics devices at home.

Carbomorph allows users to create electronic tracks and sensors as part of the 3D printed structure. That means that the 3D printer can print touch sensitive areas that can be connected to a simple electronic circuit board to operate.
 
The team of researchers has used the new material to print objects on embedded flex sensors and to create devices with touch sensitive buttons such as game controllers. In addition, the printed sensors they have created can be monitored using open-source electronics and free programming libraries.

"Designers could also use it to understand better how people tactilely interact with products by monitoring sensors embedded into objects,” said Leigh.

"However, in the short term I can see this technology having a major impact in the educational sector for example, allowing the next generation of young engineers to get hands-on experience of using advanced manufacturing technology to design fairly high-tech devices and products right there in the classroom."
 
According to the researchers, the next step for the project is to work on printing more complex structures and electronic components including wires and cables needed to connect the devices to the computer.
 
We reported earlier this week that researchers have developed a 3D printer that is capable of making implantable cartilage that could someday help patients suffering from arthritis.

Source: Science Daily



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Patent and copyright holders crying
By hankw on 11/27/2012 10:25:01 AM , Rating: 2
These advancements in 3d printing are going to make patent and copyright holders cry in the not so distant future. Much like the way you can borrow a friends music and copy it, you will be able to borrow almost anything and duplicate it. 3D "blueprint" sharing will be the future for pirates. :D




RE: Patent and copyright holders crying
By Motoman on 11/27/2012 10:39:01 AM , Rating: 2
You might run into the same kind of issues in some regard...but realistically speaking, it's never going to be that rampant.

Copying a .mp3 costs the user nothing. Doesn't really even take any time.

To "pirate" an iThing, for example, you'd firstly have to buy one of these 3D printers, be able to assemble the circuit board to attach them too, and all the other materials and expertise that go into doing it.

This thing isn't like a Star Trek replicator.


RE: Patent and copyright holders crying
By eagle470 on 11/27/2012 11:00:42 AM , Rating: 2
"This thing isn't like a Star Trek replicator."

Not yet it isn't, give it 20 years, by the time we have quantum computers, things like replicators or nanobots that can reassemble things at the atomic level will be just around the corner. Then ownership of a design will mean nothing. But that's not a problem we have as of yet.


RE: Patent and copyright holders crying
By Flunk on 11/27/2012 11:18:05 AM , Rating: 2
You do have a point, we're still at step 1 here. The final product will be fantastic. I think I had better improve my CAD skills.

Just wait until they have 3d scanners with high enough resolution and 3d printers with high enough resolution. You'll be able to copy anything you like.


By Solandri on 11/27/2012 11:09:04 PM , Rating: 2
Bear in mind the raw materials that go into making a car only cost about $3500. The rest of it is design, machining, assembly, labor, etc. So while these won't drop the cost of "manufacturing" a duplicate to zero like MP3s did, they can drop the price substantially.

The question is will we see what a remarkable boon this will be for mankind, when you can "print" stuff for about 1/5th the cost of what it used to buy it manufactured? Or will we decide only the people who hold the patents and copyrights on the designs should be the ones to benefit, like the music industry has been trying. (Cost to "publish" and "distribute" music has dropped to near zero, yet their price per album is about the same as in the vinyl record days.)


RE: Patent and copyright holders crying
By Denigrate on 11/27/2012 11:43:07 AM , Rating: 2
You do know that you can build a 3d printer with a 3d printer, right? So it's more like Stargate in that the 3D printers can self replicate.


By Mitch101 on 11/27/2012 12:23:34 PM , Rating: 2
Kudos for the stargate reference. Around the last time I watched the SyFy channel.

I think this will start off with the people who can afford them making clones of items for sale and move toward the local nerd and finally to consumer. I would give it 7-10 years to reach consumer level.

Still I dont think it will be able to replicate everything since its a specific compound used that has a specific hardness but will certainly allow you to make a lot of items.

Would be great to make replacement parts though. Broken tire on a kids toy? Want a new body style for a RC car? Custom make a remote control? Dyson vacuum broke a piece just print a new one.

I love the possibilities of this.


RE: Patent and copyright holders crying
By hankw on 11/27/2012 12:37:10 PM , Rating: 2
It doesn't have to be something so complicated as a phone, but it'll eventually be possible anyhow. I'd imagine a distribution service where a store like Amazon doesn't deliver you an actual product, but instead "licenses" a design for your "thing maker" to produce a certain number of copies of. You just need to provide the raw materials. Then some kids will just go to the Pirates Bay to find a DRM free version. :D


By ilostmypen on 11/27/2012 2:20:14 PM , Rating: 2
I'm pretty sure The Pirate Bay made a statement a while back to this regard. Something along the lines of their ultimate goal being to one day be able to provide the world the ability to download ANYTHING be it physical or not.


By Autisticgramma on 11/27/2012 1:42:23 PM , Rating: 2
The first company to successfully "Radio Shack" this stuff, will either own all the funds, or be legally nuked of the face of the earth.

Either way it is an exciting time. (no flying cars tho :\)

Radio shack circa 1982, was an DIY electronics store, not another phone reseller.

Additionally collecting 'rent' on these co called 'rights' is a drain on our economy. Lets see them innovate or cry.


By Trisped on 11/27/2012 6:01:51 PM , Rating: 2
3D printers currently only duplicate rather large items. So while you can make a new case for your cell phone and maybe even print the main circuit board, you will still have to buy the chips, wires, touch interface, screen protecting glass, and the display (though the last three would probably be sold as one unit). Then you also have to get an OS.

In the end it will be like building your own desktop, you can, it is not very hard, but very few people do it since they do not want to spend the time.


RE: Patent and copyright holders crying
By Visual on 11/28/2012 5:14:55 AM , Rating: 2
If something becomes cheap and easy for average joes to copy, then it would also be at least as cheap for the original manufacturer.
So its retail price should be comparable to what it would cost you to "pirate" it, removing much of the reasons to pirate it.
As for companies that still try to sell items with $2 bill of materials for a $50 retail price, they deserve to get "pirated" and it should be completely legal, and be called competition not piracy.


RE: Patent and copyright holders crying
By hankw on 11/28/2012 6:58:57 AM , Rating: 2
That's not quite true. A large chunk of a cost of product isn't just the manufacturing. They have to pay for R&D, marketing, distribution, general operations, etc. You're not just paying for the raw materials.


By ppardee on 11/28/2012 6:33:31 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe the future financing model will be in the style of kick-starter. Someone says "I want to design this awesome thing that can be printed freely but need funding." And the people who want said awesome thing help pay for the development. The purchase is on the back end instead of the front end. No piracy, no need for marketing beyond the initial fund raising (if something is really cool/useful, it will market itself... see Gangnam Style), distribution would be via p2p networks, general operations would also be funded in the initial push... To remain profitable, you must continue to produce things people want.

To get to the Star Trek point, we would have to be able to produce the raw materials out of any general waste and have energy that is so abundant that it is free (or close to it). But having a free exchange of ideas AND the capability of manufacturing anything without any expertise is the path to true freedom and prosperity... And both of those breed peace.


"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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